Pi
A Biography of the World's Most Mysterious Number 
by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann
 
We all learned that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is called "Pi" and that the value of this algebraic symbol is roughly 3.14. What we weren’t told, though, is that behind this seemingly mundane fact is a world of mystery, which has fascinated mathematicians from ancient times to the present.

Mathematicians call it a “transcendental number” because its value cannot be calculated by any combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and square root extraction. This elusive nature has led intrepid investigators over the years to attempt ever-closer approximations. In 2002, a Japanese professor using a supercomputer calculated the value to 1.24 trillion decimal places! Nonetheless, in this huge string of decimals there is no periodic repetition.

In this delightful layperson’s introduction to one of math’s most interesting phenomena, Drs. Posamentier and Lehmann review "Pi’s" history from prebiblical times to the 21st century, the many amusing and mind-boggling ways of estimating "Pi" over the centuries, quirky examples of obsessing about "Pi" (including an attempt to legislate its exact value), and useful applications of "Pi" in everyday life, including statistics.

This enlightening and stimulating approach to mathematics will entertain lay readers while improving their mathematical literacy.


Pi
A Biography of the World's Most Mysterious Number 
by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann 
Prometheus, 2004.
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